Game 4 adds to fire

Updated: April 29, 2004, 12:10 PM ET
Associated Press

MINNEAPOLIS -- Trash talking, bad feelings and name calling.

This Minnesota Timberwolves-Denver Nuggets playoff series is now officially a rivalry, although it might not last much longer.

If the Timberwolves win Friday night's Game 5, Minnesota will advance to the second round for the first time in team history. If the Nuggets play the way they did in the last two games it could be tough.

Add in some off-court brouhaha, and emotions may not wait until after the game to boil over again.

"It's going to be a war Friday," Denver's Carmelo Anthony said Wednesday.

After Minnesota's win Tuesday night, Latrell Sprewell got into a shouting match with Denver guard Jon Barry in front of the Nuggets bench. Their teammates separated them, but the two groups continued to taunt each other over the horde of cameras and officials.

"There has been a lot of talking, and this is what the playoffs are all about," Wolves guard Trenton Hassell said.

The talking continued Wednesday as the teams prepared for Friday night's game at Target Center. Wolves coach Flip Saunders gave his players the day off, but a couple of the Nuggets were still seething over Minnesota's celebration in front of the bench.

"They're a No. 1 seed acting like little kids," Nuggets forward Francisco Elson said. "So it's personal right now. Very personal on my part, too."

Elson was especially annoyed with Kevin Garnett. Elson said Garnett hit him in the groin when the two were matched against each other early in the game.

"That's a cheap shot by a low type of player, low class type of player," Elson said. "No respect for the Nuggets at all and no respect for me on my part. We're going to retaliate. I don't want his respect. I don't care about him, anyway. Who is he?"

Barry also sounded off on the post-game confrontations.

"I thought it was kind of funny, a No. 1 seed is acting like they won a championship or something last night," he said. "I don't know why they would feel they have to pound their chests in front of our bench after they win a ball game."

After a 21-point win in Game 3, the Nuggets made the Wolves fight for Game 4 down to the final seconds. Denver nearly pulled off the comeback even with a hobbled Anthony on the bench with only two points.

Throughout this series, the Nuggets have relished the underdog role.

For two days after Denver's Game 3 romp, the Wolves listened to the Nuggets take a few jabs at them through the media.

Among the bulletin board material:

  • Anthony told a group of reporters the franchise might have to fold if the Timberwolves don't make it out of the first round this year. "There might not be any more Minnesota Timberwolves," he was quoted as saying.

  • Barry, upset over an incident in Game 3 in which Garnett tried to knock the ball out of Anthony's hands on the sideline and then talked trash with Andre Miller, said the Wolves didn't show the Nuggets enough respect.

    Even before Game 3, several of the Nuggets characterized the Wolves as big talkers.

    "We haven't trash-talked," said Wolves center Ervin Johnson, who had his own altercation with Anthony and Marcus Camby during Game 2 in Minneapolis. "We are professional and are going to let our actions speak on the basketball court."

    They did Tuesday night. But those actions weren't limited to playing basketball.

    The most notable episode was the Sprewell-Barry faceoff.

    When asked about the confrontation, Barry had some fun with it.

    "I just told him he was a striking-looking individual and really enjoyed watching him play," he said.

    After the final buzzer, Garnett hurled the ball the length of the court into the seats. Anthony, whose status is uncertain for Friday, wasn't as bothered by the celebration.

    "They won the game," he said. "They were excited. There was a lot of emotion that was flowing through the building last night. Trash talking, that makes the game fun."

    Wolves coach Flip Saunders rebuffed the notion that the Wolves don't respect their opponents.

    "I've got respect for every one of those guys that plays," Saunders said. "They're all very good players and Jeff (Bzdelik) has done a good job. And any misconception about us not respecting them, we respect them.

    "We don't fear them because you're not supposed to fear anyone."

    Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press